Antarctic filamentous fungi: source of antimicrobials

Dr. Silvana Alborés, Facultad de Química

The search and identification of fungi in Antarctica is very promising both for biodiversity studies as well as for various applications. An example of such applications is the potential of these fungi to produce antimicrobial compounds. Despite the great advances in the treatment of infectious diseases these are still not controlled nor eradicated, being one of the main causes of death in the world. Likewise, the importance of plant diseases in modern agriculture is a well-documented and recognized fact and constitutes one of the main causes of instability in the agricultural enterprise and the global food deficit. To address this problem one strategy is the search for antimicrobials from natural sources. For several years our group has been engaged in research in this line, in the search for new compounds obtained from plants and fungi from collections made in Uruguay. In this context our Antarctic research aims at the study of Antarctic mushroom strains both to achieve a greater knowledge of diversity as well as to find new biotechnological applications such as the production of antimicrobial compounds. The second line of study is related to climate change. The highest rates of global warming have been observed in this Antarctic region. In the Fildes Peninsula, the Bellinghausen glacier has steadily receded in the last five decades. As glaciers recede, substrate is exposed that is rapidly colonized by native and exotic organisms. This line of work studies the microbial composition of carpets and their capacity to metabolize nitrogen, as a potentially limiting element for the development of the microbial community. The proposal includes the study of changes in the composition and physiology of these communities before climate change scenarios. So far, studies show that these communities have a very diverse composition and have the capacity to reduce atmospheric nitrogen (biological nitrogen fixation) and to oxidize the nitrate through a process called denitrification, thus completing the cycle of this element.